Date: January 9th, 2010 4:05 PM
Author: Nofapping maroon persian
for pix, go to http://www.encyclopediadramatica.com/Lena_Chen
Lena Chen found out about the photos two years ago this Christmas.
A reporter from a gossip blog e-mailed her on Dec. 21, 2007. The pictures were on the Internet, the reporter told Chen, and they were spreading fast.
There were 12 photos in all -- four nude, one sexually explicit. They were all of Chen, all taken by an ex-boyfriend.
Chen was 20 at the time, a junior at Harvard. She wasn't the first to have nude photos spilled online, but she may have been the most famous, at least among those who are not truly famous.
Chen was the author of a blog called Sex and the Ivy. She started it when she was 19 years old and used it to chronicle her life.
As the name implied, Chen's blog was deeply personal and frank about sex. In an early post, she confessed to having both mommy and daddy issues. She liked her fish, she added, like she liked her sex: raw.
The blog's occasionally explicit descriptions of Chen's sexual trysts -- and the fact Chen wrote it under her own name -- earned her some notoriety.
She was mentioned in local and later national press. She became, in the insular world of elite undergraduate life, something of a celebrity.
All of which is to say that when nude photos of her appeared online, there were enough people who knew who she was to care, and spread them. In other words, she was not just another naked young woman on the Internet.
Chen believes her ex leaked the photos deliberately, to hurt her.
"The fact that I was a well-known figure online, that helped him," she said when I spoke to her before Christmas. "And that was pretty terrible."
NO REGRETS FOR BLOG
Still, two years later, she seems remarkably blase about the incident. "I heard a lot of people say things like, 'Oh, well she shouldn't have let him take naked photos of her, she had it coming, blah, blah, blah, blah,' " she said. "But you can't really prevent psychos from entering your life. ... It's certainly not something that's made me regret my blog."
The leaked nude shot or sex tape is one of the stock horror stories of the past decade.
Over the past 10 years, webcams and high-speed Internet -- and later smart phones -- made taking and sending photographs of yourself simple, too simple for some.
A study released this December by the Pew Centre, an independent research centre in the United States, found 30 per cent of cellphone-owning 17-year-olds in the United States had received a nude or nearly nude image on their phone. The numbers are almost certainly higher for those in their college years.
And while the vast majority of those pictures were likely meant for and stayed with a limited audience, there are enough stories like Chen's out there to freak the parents of North America right out.
But here's the thing: Those stories? They're not the real story.
In the long run, the more interesting thing about life on the Internet in the last decade is not what people didn't want out there, it's what they did. It's not the pictures someone else leaked, it's the ones they put up themselves.
The nude photos of Chen are still online. There's not much she can do about those. But so is her blog.
Chen is 22 now, she's a Harvard graduate and starting her career as a writer.
She doesn't see any problem having a chronicle of her college-age sex life living forever online.
Last year she even posted her own explicit -- not nude, but still racy -- photo on her new blog.
INDISCRETIONS LIVE FOREVER
Chen is obviously a special case. As she put it when I spoke to her, it's not like there are 80 Harvard students writing sex blogs now.
But there are hundreds of thousands of other young people putting up hundreds of thousands of photos, writing thousands of blogs and sharing information in other ways.
What they're doing is chronicling their lives -- in public -- at an age when people experiment and make mistakes. And for older generations -- generations that were generally just as happy to leave their own youth undocumented -- that can be a baffling and scary concept.
The real question, though, is this: What will happen when today's youth are no longer so young? Will they regret having bared so much of themselves at so vulnerable a time? Will they try to scrub their pasts from the web?
Alexandra Samuel doesn't think so.
Samuel is the director of the Social & Interactive Media Centre at Emily Carr University in Vancouver. To her, the big generational disconnect from the last decade is around the idea that people should have a "professional" appearance online.
"It think it's because us old people, in our thirties, came of age when the Internet really was a work tool," she said. "And in the last decade it's become hugely social and entertaining.
"Anyone under 25, pretty much, is going to have a picture of themselves puking, or in their bra, or whatever. And for now, there are still more old people to be shocked than young people to find it normal."
The thing is, most of the things young people are putting online don't show them doing things college-age kids weren't doing 10 years ago or 10 years before that. And Samuel thinks all the worry about employers finding these pictures or reading these blogs as these people get older will mostly disappear.
"I mean, it's one thing if you're shooting heroin," she said. "But if you're doing stuff that is well within the bounds of normal adolescent behaviour? They're just missing the opportunity to make good hires."
It might be that one of the big changes wrought by social media over the last decade isn't about behaviour at all, it's about perception.
People are still going to have sex, and go to parties and get drunk. They're going to do things they wish they hadn't and things they're secretly glad they did.
It's just that now, like Chen, they're not going to pretend they never did them.
ACTIVISM VIA FACEBOOK
Nikahang Kowsar has about 11,000 friends on Facebook. He has three accounts, plus a fan page, and 3,000 friends pending.
Kowsar doesn't use Facebook the way most people do. He doesn't plan parties or track down girls from his high school. Kowsar uses Facebook to gather and disseminate information. He uses it, in his own way, for journalism.
Kowsar is Canadian now. But he was born and built a career as a journalist and cartoonist in Iran.
Today, from his home outside Toronto, he gathers information from inside his homeland and spreads it out again through his online network. Journalists send him news they can't publish; campaigners and dissidents inform him of upcoming events.
"So many of these people on Facebook, who I actually haven't met, became my online friends," Kowsar said. "Many of them, right now, post their opinions, ideas, even cartoons on my Facebook. It has become, not exactly a public forum, but a place to discuss different things and get up to date."
When the brains behind Facebook launched the site in 2004, it's hard to imagine they had Nikahang Kowsar in mind. The site was originally restricted to students at Harvard, which Kowsar was not.
That Kowsar took the tool they created and used it in his own way and for his own ends is both unusual and not.
One of the remarkable things about the rise of social media over the last decade is that so many social media tools have become big in ways their creators never originally intended, and with users they never expected.
Flickr, the photo-sharing giant, grew out of an online computer game. MySpace was sustained in its early years by a mix of gay men, rock bands and fans of the Burning Man music festival.
One of the weirdest examples is Orkut, a social network site created by Google in 2004.
Orkut never really took off in the United States, where it was launched. But it didn't disappear. Beginning in 2004 and swelling in 2005, the site became huge among Portuguese-speaking Brazilians.
"Everybody from Brazil is on Orkut, even my older family members, my uncles, people you'd never expect," said Allesandra Maslanko.
Maslanko moved to Edmonton from Brazil nine years ago. She joined Orkut after her sister visited in 2004.
Today, Maslanko is on Orkut every day. She keeps track of friends back home on Orkut. She makes new friends here on Orkut.
Google didn't intend to create a worldwide network for the Brazilian diaspora when they launched Orkut. But with Orkut, as with much social media, it was the users, not the creators, who decided what it would become.
The decade in social media was launched by creators, by brilliant minds who saw ways to unleash and spread the words, pictures, videos and networks of billions of computer users worldwide. But it was shaped by users.
To the extent that the Internet today is foul, that it's beautiful and creative and unspeakably mundane, it is so because we are too.
No medium in human history has contained the range of contributions and contributors of the Internet in the era of web 2.0.
No medium has come closer to reflecting as large a chunk of humanity as does the Internet today.
So as this decade ends and the next begins, we are faced with this reality: If we want the Internet to be less crude and more kind, to foster conversations, not squabbles, if we want the Internet to be better, we have to be better too. Because the tools unleashed by social media are just that, tools. We are the ones who use them.
and 'natch, Lena Chen blathers about the article...
Short Version: Lena escaped from the scandal by downing meds, jet-setting to Switzerland, and having "lots of sex"
My friends have a tendency to categorize my college experience as pre- and post-Patrick [Hamm] (or pre- and post-domestication-of-formerly-unruly-sex-blogger), but I think the split really occurs not when I met the current roomie, but two Christmases ago. I’m referring to those infamous nude photos, whose surfacing and aftermath have been neatly summarized in a recent piece in a Canadian paper. It felt strange to comment on the incident for the article, given how much time has passed and how young I was then (not that I’m much older now). But though many things have changed since, I don’t know if I’d handle it any differently today, which is probably why I seemed “remarkably blase” in the interview. I think I did the best I could at the time.
In the winter of 2007, I was single and living alone in Currier House, still blogging primarily on Sex and the Ivy, and seriously considering writing a memoir (which has long been shelved in favor of my senior thesis). At 20 years old, I was completely unprepared to deal with such a deep invasion of privacy, though I wonder if that’s the sort of thing one is ever prepared to handle gracefully. It wasn’t about the fact that I was naked on the Internet nor was it about the sociopathic ex who I’d long written off. I was never ashamed of my body or of people seeing it, but rather, I felt victimized because I had been exposed without consent and doubly victimized by those who wrote salaciously about the incident. The initial IvyGate post was how most of my classmates found out about the photos, and the subsequent coverage on Fleshbot, Bostonist, who knows where else, informed the world beyond Cambridge.
In the weeks after, I encountered little sympathy and plenty of mockery. It was easy for strangers online to say that I was “asking for it” when they weren’t in my shoes, freaking the fuck out (quite literally, in the form of panic attacks), and very much certain that I didn’t ask for this shit. Neither did I ask for people to mock my high-school aged sister, Gina Chen, who told me to my face that she "regretted how people assume I'm a slut like you."
However, I was mostly appalled by the way I was treated by other Harvard students, who had no moral qualms about Googling the photos and sending them to one another. It wasn’t the first or last time I felt totally alienated, isolated, and violated by the campus at large, but it was easily the worst time because I was going at it alone. Unlike romantic troubles or an uncalled-for rude encounter, this was a situation that literally no one in my life could understand or empathize with.
So how did I get over it? By leaving Harvard. I made the best of finals and submitted multiple late papers thanks to a note from my therapist. I got a prescription for an anti-anxiety medication I never ended up taking. I went to Switzerland for nine days with two girlfriends, hiked uphill in snow to reach the peak of the world’s longest sled run, and had a lot of sex with someone who was not a sociopath. Thankfully, I emerged from my depressive haze without the least bit of generalized hatred toward men, since I met Patrick, a.k.a. “the Guy”, shortly thereafter. In the subsequent months of my junior year, I transitioned slowly away from my old blog and into this one. Mid-semester, sleuthing e-stalkers unmasked and defamed “the Guy”, pretty much cementing my belief that I could never return to writing openly about my own sex life. I also moved, for all intents and purposes, into Patrick’s then-apartment and never once looked back at the option of living on campus. By the time I got Ad Boarded for not turning in two final papers, I was just completely done with Harvard. Everyone was telling me to finish the damn papers — which were completely doable — and I was thinking, “What’s so bad about having to take a year off, anyway? I freaking hate this place.” When I left Harvard at the end of May, I had already long checked out emotionally. I hadn’t even slept in Currier for months and only showed up to move-out in order to shove things into boxes. Two months later, I turned 21 halfway around the world from Cambridge. I went back to Boston a few weeks later and moved in with Patrick, with whom I lived during my year off. Harvard has never felt like home again, not even after I returned as a student this fall.
This is all to say that even if I appeared “remarkably blase about the incident” in my interview for the aforementioned article, it was hardly an insignificant event in my life. I’ve said most, though not all, of the above before, and often, it feels like I’m repeating myself when I discuss this topic. Maybe that’s because I’m still grappling with what happened. The reaction to those photos simultaneously defined and epitomized my college experience, which often felt like a circus act performed before sadistic spectators. Someday, I’ll have to post the “reflective” essay I submitted to get readmitted to Harvard. It was more a condemnation of my classmates than it was an expression of remorse, and if the administration ever had doubts about how cruel Ivy League students can be … well, now they know. Back then, I was also very much of the mindset that the bloggers and reporters who wrote about the photos were simply doing their job: writing about the news. Only in the year afterward did I realize that having a sex blog hardly makes one newsworthy and that furthermore, gossip is not news. It would have saved my sanity had a few individuals simply thought twice about clicking “Post Entry”. In retrospect, I regret that I wasn’t more critical of the writers who exploited the source of my personal anguish for page views.
In a few short months, I’ll have a Harvard degree in addition to hundreds of unfavorable Google search results to show for all this trouble, yet I’ve never quite forgiven or forgotten the on- and off-line masses who judged, dissected, and mocked my younger self. In a coming-of-age film, the above drama might be characterized as the experience necessary for eventual personal growth or finding Mr. Right or whatever. Winding up with a bulldog-owning Yalie is kind of the perfect happy ending to the Ivy League version of Sex And The City. But outside of HBO world, no one needs to nearly get their life ruined in order to emerge triumphant. The reality is that people are often mean without justification, you may or may not learn from this stuff, and the guy you end up with in the aftermath is not necessarily the pay-off for putting up with bullshit. Though I survived my ordeal more or less intact, with a boyfriend and a puppy dog to boot, I have never regained my former faith in others’ inherent goodness. Which is good, because I was really just being naive. The crazy ex who posted those photos could have easily been written off as a psychotic exception to the generally sane population at large, but what happened in the aftermath demonstrated to me how thoughtless, judgmental, and unkind normal individuals can be and that this tends to be the rule, not the exception, and that Harvard kids with all their privilege are not exempt from moral failings despite being in a position where they should theoretically “know better”.
And that realization, not Patrick, is what really prompted some rather radical changes in my life. Harvard has a knack for fooling its students into becoming incredibly invested in their peers. The cult of the Ivy and all that. The belief that your success is mine and vice versa. Even at its rawest, my blog up until that point reflected a painful desire to be liked. I was well-aware that my subject matter was slightly edgy and my reputation slightly soiled, but hardly unsalvageable, nothing a book deal couldn’t fix. It wasn’t until the ugly aftermath of the photos that I started to question what I was trying to prove and who I was trying to prove it to. It was then that I stopped participating in superficial social interactions, ceased going to anonymous parties, and completely disengaged from communal college life. In other words, I no longer viewed my classmates as flawless individuals who I should be grateful to know.
Up until then, my go-to future plan had always been Move To New York, Write A Memoir, Become Carrie 2.0. Now that graduation is actually on the horizon, I don’t find any of the above particularly appealing. I will almost certainly stay in Boston, at least in the short-term, and perhaps I will still publish a book, but not because I feel the need to apologize for my sordid past by seeking redemption via commercial literary success. As for Carrie 2.0, I’d rather aspire to be Jessica Valenti. But the truth is that I don’t even have New Year’s resolutions, not to speak of a multi-year life plan. I don’t have any idea how 2010 will turn out, since I didn’t do corporate recruiting in the fall, haven’t looked for a job, failed to apply to grad schools or take the GRE, and have no real intention to think about post-graduation life until I actually graduate (or at least until I finish my thesis). Two years ago, this would’ve struck me as terribly complacent, perhaps even boring, but right now,it just feels liberating.